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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

I7o                            THE GAY GENIUS

When Mrs. Su heard this, she laughed through her tears, in spite of
herself. This story comes from Su's own journal, but we do not know
whether he had invented it on the spot or not.

It was decided that his eldest son, Mai, would accompany him to the
capital Wang Shih, who had been tutoring Tungpo's children, and his
younger brother were to stay behind and later bring the whole familf
to the capital. The officials were all scared out of their wits and in
hiding, but the common people went out to see the departure of the
magistrate, and according to the official history of the district they "shed
tears like rain". The manner and procedure of the official messenger
and the soldiers were very high-handed, and later Su Tungpo, in a letter
to the succeeding emperor, said that they arrested a chief magistrate
and laid hands on him like a robber. Only the two Wang brothers
and a secretary on the staff of the magistrate's office went out and gave
him a little wine dinner to send him off.

There are several stories that Su Tungpo thought of committing^
suicide while on the way. According to his own letter to the Emperor,
he thought of jumping into the Yangtse River while crossing at Yang-
chow, but according to the record of Kung Pingchung, it was at the
beginning of the voyage, when the boat was anchored on Taihu Lake
for repair of the oars. That night the moon was very bright and there
was a high wind over the lake. Su Tungpo had no idea how he was
going to be punished, and his case might implicate many of his friends.
He thought it would be a simple matter to close his eyes and jump into
the lake, but on second thought he realised that if he did this it would
be sure to bring his younger brother into trouble. In his letter to Weg
Yenpo he described how his family had destroyed much of his corre-
spondence and many of his manuscripts. When the family reached
Sushien in Anhuei, the censorate again sent messengers to search their
luggage for further poems, letters, and other possible documents. The
womenfolk and children had a great scare when a number of soldiers
surrounded the boat, ransacked their trunks, and threw their contents
about, as all soldiers on such duties do. After the soldiers had gone, the
women said angrily: "This all comes of writing books! What does he
get by it? It scared us to death." Then they burned his manuscripts,
and later the poet found that only about a third of them survived.

Su Tungpo was arrested on July 28 and was thrown into the imperial
censorate prison on August 18. It was a long trial, lasting six or seven
weeks. While in the prison he had a very kind warden who evidently
knew who he was. This warden treated him with great respect, and
every night prepared hot water for his foot-bath, which even today is
the regular custom of people from Szechuen.

There was an amusing incident while Su Tungpo was in jail, which
turned out a help to him .at the trial. His son saw him in prison every